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Home » Let me become your fantasy » Entrenched Restrictions: Instagram’s Harmful Policy on “Female Nipples”

Entrenched Restrictions: Instagram’s Harmful Policy on “Female Nipples”

A topless woman wearing gym gloves

Imagine yourself sitting at the chic table of a popular restaurant you’ve been excited to try for a while. After being seated across from your date, the waiter hands you both two separate menus, one labeled “for females” and the other “for males.” And as you examine them both, puzzled, you discover that the female menu has fewer options and higher prices. 

“That’s absurd!” I can hear you say to yourself about this odd hypothetical situation I’ve just put into your mind, and I agree. It’s entirely outrageous. Clearly, it’s unethical to provide different options to people for no rational reason. Yet, we live in a world where these double standards are ubiquitous, even at an institutional level. We’ve become so accustomed to the menus we get handed on the daily that we may not even know others are ordering from a different one. 

Let me target Instagram and their inequitable and pernicious nipple policy that hands females and males completely different options, allowing men the freedom to expose their chests while doling out punishment to women who attempt the same or even less. And while Instagram claims that their community guidelines are in place to “foster and protect this amazing community” in reality, their policy on this particular issue perpetuates the harmful notion that women are sexualized rather than ourselves sexual and that we must conform ourselves to appease the culturally accepted sexual appetite of men.  

Let me share an anecdote. A few months back,  I  posted a story to Instagram only to have it taken down within seconds. The removal of the story put me in the Instagram doghouse. Annoying little orange exclamation marks appeared in my “Account Status” section, and I was sanctioned from going live for one day. The story was simply an image of me topless with half of my hair down and the other half braided. I added a poll, asking what style people preferred. And because I’ve already had to learn the frustrating lesson of Instagram’s policy, I intentionally had my hair covering my breasts. Yet, I didn’t pay enough attention to the tiny little fact that ¼ of my areola was peeking out from behind my braid. That small patch of peachy brown skin was enough to get me into trouble. And yet, when I go to my Instagram feed, which is full of attractive bodybuilder gym bros (because surprise world, women are visually stimulated, too), I could scroll for infinity watching pair after pair of perfectly tasteable perky man nipples staring me in the face, nipples that many of which sit atop pectoral muscles bigger than my own breasts. 

Instagram removed content page

In case you’re not familiar with their nudity policy, Instagram states that one should not post “Uncovered female nipples except in the context of breastfeeding, birth giving and after-birth moments, medical or health context (for example, post-mastectomy, breast cancer awareness or gender confirmation surgery) or an act of protest.And so, creators who wish to post a woman’s body must find ways to cover, hide, or blur the offending “female nipple” while male nipples are as frequent on the platform as cockroaches in New York. 

According to Instagram’s policy on nudity, they “restrict the display of nudity or sexual activity because some people in our community may be sensitive to this type of content.” The message is clear, Instagram has chosen to pander to the comfort of those who persist in the objectification of women and the fear of the female body rather than creating a space of gender equity where today’s youth can learn healthy ideas about their own sexuality and space in the world. 

The blatant double standard of this policy implies that women are the sexual objects of men, and we must conform as to not insight their lust. However, it equally suggests that women are less sexual, that we don’t have the same desires as men, or that our desires don’t matter. I lust over the gym bros in my feed. I let my eyes wash across their tanned ripped chests and their perky nipples, and I get wet – yes, that’s what I said – fucking wet. I fantasize about those strong pectoral muscles writhing above me while a large brawny body spreads my thighs wide open. Why is nobody concerned about my lust? Why aren’t men asked to contain themselves, so I can focus at work?

This begs the question of “How exactly is Instagram keeping the community safe if they’re reinforcing distorted views about women, our bodies, and our sexuality?” The answer is simple. Their policy on nipples is not safety; it is harm at an institutional level. 

So, instead of perpetuating inequitable bodily censorship,  Instagram could usher in a new policy –  one where either all nipples are welcomed or one where none are.  

Honestly,  I’m tempted to go with option two.  I’d love to see the meltdown of the gym bros as they’re forced to cover their nipples with little stickers or emojis. 

“This is absurd!” I can hear them rioting as they cause an uproar across the world at such an abstract bodily censorship.  “Men don’t have to cover their nipples,” I can hear them brawling in the streets as they beat their chests in protest.  

And at that,  I would stand up,  bare chested in front of the roaring crowd and scream, “Do you think women ever asked to be forced to obsessively cover ours, to feel shame at a tiny little bump poking through a shirt on a cold day? Do you really think we want this either? Let’s end this together.” 

And with the support of the angry populace of men, with their bodily entitlement fueling their rage at being restricted – at being inconvenienced – perhaps then the whole absurd nipple debate would end, leaving us to be served from the same damn menu once and for all. 

Woman wearing sheer shirt with nipple outlines.

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